Standing outside on a cold winter morning, I see my breath as I exhale. I hold tightly to the leash as my dog sniffs the frozen ground. She leaves her mark on every spot that every other dog in the neighborhood has marked. I see the frost tipped grass that’s browned from the fall. It appears to be in a stagnant season at this point, but it’s only resting. The grass is gearing up for a busy season that’s just around the corner. It’s preparing for warmer months of growth and green and vibrance. It’s taking a break. It’s as if it’s the calm before the storm, but the grass is still very alive. The grass appears to be dead, but the work underground is moving along right on schedule. The dormant period for grass is an important step in its life.
I notice all the tree branches that have fallen from Thursday’s winds. Downed limbs mark the spot every few feet in the yard. As the small branches lay on the dead looking grass, their weakness is evident. Otherwise, they would still be holding strong to the tree that bore them. They couldn’t hold their strength against a strong wind. And that’s okay. Because the trunk of the tree still stands. The wind didn’t overtake the tree with its roots dug deep. But I noticed in my neighbor’s yard the two trees that have fallen, not from this week’s wind but from winds of days gone by. Sure. These neighbors will have the trees removed. They’ll have their fence repaired again, and life will go on as normal. And the winds will continue to blow at the appointed time.
I recall another sighting earlier in the week, as my dog and I were outside. Looking overhead, I noticed the small Cooper’s Hawk frantically flying through the air chasing a smaller bird just out of its reach. The hawk was searching for its next meal. The smaller bird was looking for a safe haven. In that particular moment, the smaller bird reached its safety nest before getting caught. And as I noticed the small hawk flying away empty handed, I knew it was still on the hunt for its next meal. And I knew it would be successful. At some point, there would be another small bird or rodent that would be caught in its mouth. The hawk would savor its meal and gain strength to sustain life. Life is a never ending circle.
Let the heavens be glad, and the earth rejoice! Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise! Let the fields and their crops burst out with joy! Let the trees of the forest sing for joy! Psalms 96:11-12
I also noticed a tree in my front yard beginning to form buds on the ends of each limb. Work was in progress as it began preparations for springtime. Oh. It seemed a tad early in the brisk cold, but the tree was planning for the future. It will soon spread its leaves and the flower buds will open, leaving a fragrance in the air for passersby to enjoy. This tree is gearing up for the growth and beauty that it will provide. Spring just can’t come soon enough. The dormant period is coming to an end.
As the days lengthen and become warm, they tease us with anticipation of the upcoming splash of color that’s around the corner. It’s assumed that nature is silent in the winter, because in our neck of the woods we see only brown and gray outdoors. But as the days grow longer and warmer, the gloominess will be replaced by a peek of sunshine and spring rain. At this moment in the soil, the bulbs and bushes are preparing for the next season of life. Creation sings not only in the spring when trees are budding and flowers are blooming. Creation sings in the winter with the frost on the plants. With the snowfall. With the frigid air. With the ice. Creation is singing. It’s just a different song. And it’s a song that a lot of people don’t like to hear because it’s cold. It’s inconvenient to bundle up to stay warm and safe. But hey. Life is full of inconveniences and we survive.
Creation is preparing for the next phase of life, because seasons come and go. In each season, we can find beauty if we look deep enough. If we don’t give up when things look bleak, when the sun isn’t shining, and all we see is gloom, we find hope. Then another day, the sun comes out and we feel its warmth. We see the limbs blown down, and we know that new limbs will grow. We see these empty trees and we know that new leaves will sprout. And they say that hope floats.
The hyacinths that I see coming up through the ground are an early sign that life is being lived under ground. And so that gives me hope that my life is still growing even underground where it can’t be seen. There is still beauty working in the dark days, in the lonely days and the trying times. When the ground looks barren, maybe we need to dig a little deeper. Because creation sings every day, even when we can’t hear it. Even when we can’t see the work nature is doing, it is still working. The wait is worth it.